Viticulture adviser issues vine-planting tips

Farm Advisory Services Team viticulture adviser Duncan McNeil gave a wealth of suggestions to Fruit Focus delegates intending to plant vines. These included:

- Ensure that soil pH is acceptable. Individual fields can vary widely so take multiple tests. "Five tonnes of chalk per hectare will raise your pH by one point," McNeil said.

- Plant windbreaks in the season before the vines are planted, because "they are very effective in raising yield".

- A combination of sub-soiling to a depth of at least 40cm, then furrow ploughing and power-harrowing ensures a fine tilth that can readily back-fill the newly planted vines. Avoid using residual or hormone-based herbicides, he advised.

- Vines should be kept in a cold store before planting to prevent fine root deterioration, and mycorrhizal fungi should be applied to the roots before planting. "The improvement in establishment is incredible," McNeill said.

- Longer roots should be trimmed to 10-15cm before planting to avoid "J-rooting"

- bending back towards the soil surface.

- Suppress weeds during the first year of establishment with contact herbicides to keep down competition for water and nitrogen.

- Newly-planted vines also need a regular and plentiful supply of water.

- Disease should be kept at bay with fortnightly spraying "otherwise you will get powdery mildew", said McNeil. This can double as an opportunity to apply a foliar fertiliser.

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